PR Top 10

The following is my Top Ten List of things I have learned about PR this semester:

  1. A company or organization’s endorsers should be genuine/authentic and knowledgable when it comes to whatever they are supporting.
  2. Silence on a serious incident is hurtful, not helpful. When crisis hits, it is important to release a smart statement as soon as possible.
  3. Research is a must – you cannot know what the people want and what you have to offer for them if a research effort is not made.
  4. The greatest behavior change will come from the persuasion of an opinion leader. Opinion leaders are people who are knowledgable experts who articulate opinions about specific issues in public discussion.
  5. Public Relations practitioners must reach a diverse and constantly changing audience. It is so important to identify the target audience in order to appropriately and effectively customize communications and public relations efforts. Keeping a close eye on values and trends is key in knowing how to get through to your audience.
  6. News releases are a great way for free publicity. 77 percent of journalists use press releases and 80 percent use public relations sources. Therefore, it is important to submit only what can actually be considered a news story and to with a clearly stated summary that contains the most important message.
  7. With social media being so big, PR practitioners have to learn how to condense their writing to get the point across.
  8. When it comes to conflict management, it is important to be aware of the Life Cycle. First there is proactive. This involves environmental scanning, issues tracking, issues management. The point of it is to avoid conflict before it is able to happen by taking the action necessary. The next method is strategic. It involves risk communication, conflict positioning, and crisis management. Then there is reactive. This is a response to crisis that is unexpected but happens to occur. It involves crisis communication, litigation PR, and conflict resolution. Lastly, there is the recovery stage. It involves reputation management and image restoration.
  9. When planning a public relations campaign you should consider these eight basic elements: situation, objectives, audience, strategy, tactics, calendar/timetable, budget, and measurement. It’s important to set goals and know what your main purpose/point is. You work with your time and budget to reach this goal.
  10. Lastly, you can’t win unless you start the R.A.C.E. — that is follow the process — research, action, communication, and evaluation

PR News Releases 101

According to a study by Arketi Group, 77 percent of journalists use press releases and 80 percent use public relations sources. This means that there is tremendous potential for Public Relations practitioners to get stories across. With any PR News Release, there must be a legitimate story and news hook. It shouldn’t be announcing something that’s already being done, but something new.

When writing a news release there are a few key questions to ask:

  • What is the key message?
  • Who are the primary audiences?
  • What objective does the news release meet?
  • What does the target audience gain from the product or service?

Tips for crafting a PR news release:

  • Identify sender – give the name, address, phone number, fax number, and e-mail address
  • Provide a headline – make it specific to what the release is about
  • Provide a dateline to indicate where the news release originated. For example: “Boston, MA: December 7, 2012”
  • Use 10 to 12 point font, standard type
  • Start with a summary that contains the most important message you want to get across to the reader. (It should be three to five lines.)
  • Don’t split a paragraph from one page to the next
  • Place a slug line and page number at the top of each page (after the first one).
  • Use AP
  • Be concise and double check all info
  • Provide a thumbnail
  • Localize the press release because it will get published more often
  • It should be like a news story
  • Use inverted pyramid style – lead paragraph most important because editors cut stories from the bottom and readers look at a lot of headlines and first paragraphs but not much else.
  • Succeeding paragraphs give details in descending order

PR news press releases are important because they can lead to free publicity for a company or organization. However, people should also be aware at how effective their methods are at reaching audiences. PRNewswire claims that its multimedia news releases get 80 percent more views than the standard e-mail release and that readers are 3.5 times more likely to share the multimedia release with friends. Many of the electronic distribution services have teamed up with Google and other search engines to promote maximum exposure of the news release. Therefore, it may be worth it for a company to invest in using these electronic distribution services so that they do not have to worry about dealing with SEO (Search Engine Optimization). With Social Media news releases or multimedia news releases it is important to include high-res photos and graphics, video, and audio components. Social media is used much more often than newspapers are read so this can be highly effective. Video releases are also a great tool because people tend to be lazy and would more easily click play on a video. It is just a matter of getting it seen. Overall, news releases are a great way to bring attention to what a company or organization has going on!

Key Factors in Persuasion

A common goal for PR practitioners is to change the opinions and behavior of individuals. There are several factors in persuasive communication that are very effective in doing so.

One of these is the appeal to self-interest and need. This is the part where you would seek to reflect what the audience is interested in or communicate what they will get in return. Practitioners should also not ignore psychological needs and rewards. Giving recognition to people is highly important. Giving honor can go a long way for long-term beneficial relationships. In other words, making an audience feel appreciated can maintain attitude or behavior change for the long-haul. (For more ideas on this read up on Maslow’s hierarchy.)

Another is audience participation. This means that it is the PR practitioner’s goal is to get the public to perform actions that will lead them closer to changing their views or opinions as desired by a company or organization. If you can get someone to take a little step, they will be more likely to take the step when something bigger is requested. This means that it is important to tell the audience how they can take action.

Source Credibility is also a key factor in persuasion communication. The audience will be looking for who is delivering the information. They will be asking, “Does the source have expertise, sincerity, and charisma?”

Reinforcement is key because when you know what your audience already believes, then you can affirm that and work from that. Finding that mutual ground opens the audience up to listen. This may not always be possible and that is why it is always necessary for PR practitioners to do the research on their audience. However, when it is possible behavior can be significantly changed.

I Fought the Law and the Law Won: How to Be a Law Abiding PR Practitioner

There are several aspects of the law that PR practitioners need to be aware of. Abiding by such laws can determine the extent to which an organization succeeds. They force organizations to be original in how they communicate and brand themselves. They also keep organizations honest.

One law that is very important is defamation. Think PR explains it well, “Traditionally, libel was the term used for a printed falsehood and slander was the term used for an oral statement that was false. Today, as a practical matter, there is little difference in the two, and the courts often use defamation as a collective term for these types of offenses. Essentially, defamation is making a false statement about a person (or organization) that creates public hatred, contempt, or ridicule, or inflicts injury on reputation” (Wilcox, 188). This is why it is vital to check facts and ensure accuracy in your statements.

The book goes on to say, “Actual malice has been defined by the U.S. Supreme Court as making a libelous statement while knowing the information is false or publishing the information with ‘reckless disregard’ as to whether it is false” (Wilcox, 188-189). The bottom line is, be honest because the truth will come out and it will take down any organization that is lifted up by lies.

A person filing a libel suit usually must prove four things:
1. The false statement was communicated to others through print, broadcast, or electronic means.
2. The person claiming to be libeled was identified or identifiable.
3. There was actual injury in the form of money losses, loss of reputation, or mental suffering.
4. The person making the statement was malicious or negligent.

It is also important to recognize that employee emails can be monitored. If someone does not particularly like the organization they are working for, they may cause harm in what they say over email. It is the organizations right to be able to address this for the good of the organization. Also, an employee may pass along emails with content that is not inline with the organizations values and can misrepresent the company. It is for this reason that employees should be informed of what exactly the organizations values are and what they wish to communicate to the public through the influence of each employee. While employees have freedom of speech it is most often best for the organization as well as their own benefit to keep the opinions in house. The exception to this is if there are clear facts that point to an organization breaking laws or putting others at harm.

Communicate Better

Being an affective communicator is key to a PR practitioner, just as communication is a key stage in any PR campaign. In order to become a better communicator, it is important to practice.

So how should you practice?

  • Be an active communicator online. Read blogs and be aware of what is going on over social media. Be sure to comment on things and look to comment back in order to maintain a conversation.
  • Always have something to offer people. Be insightful and helpful.
  • Be aware of what is going on in other industries.
  • Have conversations with web experts to gain a better understanding of search engine optimization  (SEO). SEO strategies can be used to improve the visibility of content you produce for the web.
  • Take advantage of classes or seminars offered. Search online for any that may be happening in your area. Also, podcasts are a good alternative.
  • Be a teacher–share your knowledge and experience. “In PR groups, speakers on the topics of social media, measurement, crisis communications, media relations and brand strategy are highly sought after” (Raschanda Hall). Doing so gives you the chance to practice your presentation skills and review the things that you have learned.
  • Get to know some bloggers and learn from them.
  • Make an effort to listen more closely (see previous post “Lousy Listeners“).
  • Make sure your messaging is mobile friendly. This is very important to consider when you go about the communication stage of a PR campaign. Mobile marketing is the new way, and it is important to be on top of it. Download news apps and visit the mobile rendered pages of your favorite brands to see how they get the job done.

(Adapted from “10 ways to sharpen your communication skills“)

Lousy Listeners

In our society people tend to know three things very well:

  1. what it means to be busy
  2. how to put the focus and attention on self
  3. the familiarity of constant noise.

This is why it is difficult for people to carry genuine conversation out. Being able to converse is a necessity to social development as well as growth in most fields of work. It requires being both active in speaking and listening. It is the latter of these that people often have difficulty with, yet that is what really makes a conversation significant. When someone comes to you with a need or concern, you have to be able to hear them out so you can respond properly and help.

Another tip for good listening is to clean your ears every day.

After reading the News U course Lousy ListenersI was able to take a few key lessons away:

  •  If you are concerned about the person, then don’t be afraid to show it and voice it through posture, control of body movements, nodding your head, smiling (when appropriate), summarize well, and empathize.
  • If someone approaches you wanting to talk and you do not have the time, kindly let them know and schedule a time that you can.
  • Make sure that you understand what the person is saying. Probe for clarification. Put aside your own views and opinions to gain their perspective. Sum up what you are hearing them say.
  • It’s important to set aside other tasks.
  • Do not make the other person feel rushed. Also, be patient and slow to speak because our brains think quicker than the other person can speak.

A surprising piece of information to me was the “partier” profile–someone who invites lots of other people in while a person is trying to have a conversation with them.

I would like to know some specific questions that are always good to ask to draw out more information.

How do you avoid being a lousy listener?

Department or Firm? Where To Get Your Start In PR

When beginning a new career it is important to set yourself up for a good start. In any career it is important to set yourself up for success by going after the right environment for you to learn, grow, and get to know others. With this comes the question of whether a person should try to get their start in a PR department or a PR firm. Let’s examine the pros and cons of each.

Pros of working for a PR department:

  • You gain a sense of pride and loyalty to a company or organization that comes as you work for it.
  • You may feel greater pressure to perform your job well because it will affect the people you work with day in and day out in the company or organization. This will help you to be a better practitioner.
  • You can work for a company or organization that you really believe in and help to make it even better over the long haul.
  • There are generally good paying salaries, extensive health and insurance benefits, and widespread resources.
  • There is the opportunity to work with a group of professional peers.
  • There is job stability when you work for a PR department.

Pros of working for a PR firm:

  • It can be fun and exciting always working with many different companies and organizations.
  • You have to be sharp and always learning about how companies and organizations run. In other words, it keeps you on your toes.
  • You are exposed to a variety of different clients and a breadth of different strategies.
  • It gives you access to lots of experienced mentors in your field.
  • It increases compradore in the field.

Cons of working for a PR department:

  • There may be a laborious approval process before producing or disseminating information.
  • Management may lack understanding of the PR function.
  • There may be a lack of advancement opportunities.
  • There may be little change in the routine of activities over time.
  • Difficult to obtain without experience.
  • Growth is limited.

Cons of working for a PR firm:

  • There is pressure of working on several projects from different clients at one time.
  • It is difficult to give every client your undivided attention as is often demanded.
  • Many have less time off.
  • Budgets can be limited.
  • The salary could be low at entry level.

I personally would choose to get a start working for a PR firm so that I can be surrounded by many mentors and feel like I am able to learn all the different aspects of PR from the many different challenges that a firm is presented with and the many practitioners who have experience. After learning even more at a firm in a few years, I would try to work for an organization that I want to see succeed.

PR: a licensed profession?

In any profession it is important to that others see you as credible and trustworthy in what you do. This should not be any different when it comes to PR. Like any other profession, specific skill sets are important, and it is important for people to easily be able to recognize that a person has these skill sets. Guided standards are important and give the profession credibility. That is why it would be good to go forward in making public relations a licensed profession.

What does it mean to be a licensed professional?

  1. Professions have standard education requirements (not necessary in PR currently) – PR professionals will need to have at least 4 years of college.
  2. Draw upon a substantial body of knowledge
  3. Requires standardized testing

Licensure would give the public, organizations, and companies more confidence in PR professionals because it would ensure that they are knowledgable. According to Bernay’s education and the development of a vocation go hand and hand. In addition to this, it would protect the profession and integrity and pride in the field. Some may say that PR becoming licensed would puts restrictions on the profession. My reply would be that licensure would not take away the high demand for PR professionals, and there would still be a lot of opportunity in the field. In fact, it could create even more opportunity, especially for women. If it was to become a licensed profession with standards, then it would be easy for a licensed women to argue equal pay and so forth. Also, licensure should increase ethics in the field, which would in turn increase the field’s integrity and cause the public to be more open to listening to companies and organizations through crisis.

For now it will be important for practitioners to seek accreditation, as it is a step towards PR becoming licensed. To date, approximately 5,000 practitioners have earned APR status, or 18% of the PRSA’s membership. Approximately 10% of IABC’s 15,000 members have earned its ABC designation. However, in the words of Bernay’s PR “has reached its rubicon.” Let’s move it forward!

For Edward L. Bernay’s complete argument for why PR should be licensed read his call to action.

The following are organizations that currently work to increase the credibility of the field and train professionals: PRSAPRSSAIABC, and IPRA.

Hobby Lobby Gets Boycotted After Filing Suit Against Obamacare

Hobby Lobby, the popular craft decoration chain, has recently taken action against Obamacare and its requirement to provide insured employees with contraceptive and abortion coverage. Hobby Lobby’s founder and CEO commented on the matter by stating, “We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate… These abortion causing drugs go against our faith.” The suit was filed on September 12th in U.S. district court in Oklahoma City. Lori Windham, the representing attorney for Hobby Lobby said, “They’re being told they have two choices: Either follow their faith and pay the government half a billion dollars or give up their beliefs.”

The crisis that the company now faces is the uprising backlash of groups that are boycotting the chain. 

One way in which PR crisis takes place rapidly is through social media. A Facebook page has been started to boycott the company. In a post to their wall today, they stated, “There’s already 70,000 signatures. We started off with only 12 likes on this page yesterday, and now the boycott is already up to 70,000!!!! Woohoo!!!” This shows how quickly crisis can evolve as people rally together over social media.

In addition to this there has also been a tumblr started in which crafty opposers are showing pictures of their works and voicing their distain towards the companies beliefs.

I could not find a press release so it will be interesting to watch this and see how it plays out. The one statement I found said this, “The Green family respects every individual’s right to free speech and hopes that others will respect their rights also, including the right to live and do business according to their religious beliefs.” This is not a huge crisis, and it is more of a legal case. With that said, I think this was a good statement to put out. They have no reason to give any sort of apology. It would be good, however, to be able to find a more accessible press release from the company in regards to what is going on.

One Facebooker commented, “Religion belongs in a church NOT a workplace,or in strangers lives.” Do you think this is true? While Green may not personally know those employees insured by Hobby Lobby, is he not ultimately their leader and the reason that they have a job there and insurance?

P.R.aise Jesus

PR can be defined as establishing goodwill between the organization and the public. There are many careers in public relations: corporate PR, government PR, an agency. However, there is one that is often overlooked by Christians, yet it is one that can be used to advance the Kingdom of God and bring God all the more glory-this area is ministry PR.

After graduation and for the rest of my life I hope to be in full-time ministry. It is certainly not an area that is exempt from public relations. Churches often face crisis, have to report different things to the congregation, have to be wise in the decisions they make as they interact with the public, and need to consider what they are communicating to the public. In fact, the General Council of the Assemblies of God has a PR department of their own. On their page are a few insightful articles that would be benefit any pastors who do not have communications professional on staff.

In one of the articles, “Is Good Communication Vital To Successful Ministry?“, the AG PR department gives 4 basic steps in establishing an active public relations program:

  1. Determine Your Local Publics. Each church is located in a community with unique demographic and geographic needs. It is important to determine the specific publics in existence around your church.
  2. Examine Your Ministries. What existing ministries would be of interest to specific publics in your community? Do any new ministries need to be established to effectively reach your publics?
  3. Plan Your Efforts and establish a realistic timeline. Determine which publics you are equipped to reach now, and which will need to wait for the training of church members and development of ministries. Next, plan what methods you will use to promote these ministries. Some examples include radio and television ads, Web and e-mail promotion, flyers, bumper stickers, door to door, giveaways and word of mouth.
  4. Execute Your Program. Carry out your plans. As you begin to build bridges between a targeted public and your church with positive relationships, you will open doors to share Christ with that public.

A PR professional should generally be one who wants to be a catalyst for change, writes well, speaks well, and can think quickly.

As someone who plans to be on staff in a ministry, I think I have the qualities to also fulfill PR duties if I seek to always be working on my writing skills. Speaking will naturally be something that I will continue to improve on as I speak in front of a congregation or the public more and more. When it comes to the thinking quickly part, well, I just pray God gives me wisdom and common sense in situations. Ultimately, I have a desire to be a catalyst for change in a community and reach out to people that do not normally attend church. PR is an effective tool in doing so.